Interview: Brad & Todd Barnes (Directors – ‘East Nashville Tonight’)

In February of 2013, the Barnes Brothers attempted to shoot a documentary about the lives of Todd Snider, Elizabeth Cook and other touring songwriters residing in the burgeoning East Nashville neighborhood.

They failed.

Instead, drugs and booze took over.

They ended up with:

‘East Nashville Tonight’

East Nashville Tonight‘ is available November 19th at, but pre-orders are now live for regular, deluxe and “Anarcho-Package’.  Anticipating the films VOD release we spoke with the Barnes Brothers about all things ‘East Nashville Tonight

Can you explain the origins of the film? Were you really trying, initially, to shoot a straightforward documentary about the growing East Nashville music scene? How did the project evolve into a drug-fueled comedy?
We really did not know what we were setting out to make when we landed in Nashville.  We still didn’t know when we left.  Once I started cutting, the footage told me what it wanted to be.  The drugs just seemed like fun and were mostly Todd Snider’s idea, as I recall.

East Nashville TonightThe film really straddles the line between documentary and fiction. How much was true documentary? How much was created?
When you watch a documentary, you are watching a documentary presentation of a person – not really the real person.  And when you make a fiction film, you’re trying to create a situation that reveals truth through storytelling.  This set up gave everyone the freedom to play a version of themselves that wasn’t conscious of the cameras.  So while it’s a mix at all times, it’s always very truthful to the characters and the instincts of the stars.

What is special to you personally about East Nashville music and musicians? How is the East Nashville music scene different than that of other areas?
We love the songwriting, we love the story telling, we love the bars and the bartenders…everyone just seems cool to us.

Why did you select stars like Todd Snider and Elizabeth Cook? What did they bring to the film, both in terms of personality and musical abilities?
Their talent was seemingly effortless and unguarded throughout the shoot – there was a feeling of absolute freedom on set that cannot be fabricated in a lab.  It can only develop when performers have spent years on the road making people smile, clap and sing along.  Both Todd and Elizabeth are gifted story-tellers and they have an ear for the stories around them.  We were fans and familiar with their music before arriving but their on-camera poise, unpredictability, generosity and camaraderie was a gift every day.

Facing FearIs drug use really this big in the East Nashville music scene? Or is it just part of the music scene in general? Do you, on some level, find drug-fueled madness to be an endearing aspect of music culture?
We find drug-fueled madness to be endearing in any context.  But it does help when the music’s cranked up too.

On November 19th, East Nashville Tonight will be released directly to fans via the film’s website. What are the benefits of this type of do-it-yourself distribution strategy? Do you think this type of direct distribution represents what is to come for other indie projects?
We already started pre-sales and were able to watch the ticker in the top right of our screens show money coming in as people bought the movie.  It was like a scene out of “The Social Network” and we wouldn’t trade that feeling for anything.

I spontaneously developed a new laugh I had never heard myself make before as real people clicked and bought.  And it felt light in the chest like the beginning of a big journey or when the acid is getting ready to kick in.

We hope every filmmaker gets to feel like that.

– Interview prepared by David Teich

East Nashville Tonight
Facebook: /EastNashvilleTonight
Twitter: @ent_movie




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